Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Advent Wrap Up

Now that we are a few days post Christmas, post craziness, post great family memories, I feel like I can sit down and really go through/reflect on our Advent activities

Since we were able to sit down as a family, and discuss our feelings (good or bad) about all the activities, I feel like I can now share what we thought, what we'd change, what we can't wait to do again.  I'll run through them one by one, and if there is a pic, I'll share that too. 

1. Pass out coupons at a local restaurant or shop:
We did this three separate times, and this was hands down the least favorite activity.  Not "hands down" because it was so awful and we got such horrible responses.  Actually, the opposite would be true.  People really responded wonderfully to receiving coupons.  The kids were told "Merry Christmas!" and "Thank You!" many times over.  Also, they loved walking up to a stranger and giving them a coupon.   No, it ended up being the least favorite by everyone because of the time involved.  I WAY underestimated how much time this would take.  I thought it would be super quick and easy.  Actually, each time we went out (three times total) we were gone for well over an hour.  And this hour was during the dinner rush, so we could catch people going into the restaurants, which also happened to be our dinner time too.  Also, since I didn't think this activity would take too  much time or effort, I had chosen days that we were a bit on the busier side.  Hungry and hurried was a bad combo.  It left a bad taste in every one's mouth.

When we sat down and discussed this activity we concluded that sometimes serving others takes a lot of patience.  Many times it also takes a sacrifice of time.  And some of the time it isn't comfortable or easy.  We also discussed that if serving required patience, sacrifice of time, and lack of comfort and ease, does that mean we should avoid it.  Also, in discussion, we pondered: Does God ever ask us to do things that are hard, uncomfortable, or a huge sacrifice. 

Good stuff.  Good stuff.

Here they are on our first night, not really knowing the wait they were in for, ready to give out coupons:

















2. Put change for a drink in a Ziploc bag and tape it to a couple of vending machines with a special note:
This activity was fun and easy.  There wasn't a very big impact, though.  We didn't hang around to see who got the change.  However, that doesn't mean it didn't bless someone.  We talked about making an impact on others and remaining invisible/not serving others just so you can reap a reward.

3. Make Christmas treats for our local firehouse:
This one was interesting.  We got busy that day and I didn't have treats ready until after normal business hours of our local firehouse.  What that meant was that no one was a the front desk, the doors were locked, and everything was dark.  It also meant that I had to ring the emergency bell.


*Ahem*

I'm not sure if those guys were as thrilled to receive cookies as much as they were left wondering what a crazy lady, who came with her two kids, in the snow, later in the evening, to drop off cookies was all about.

















Yup, fairly certain there are some fake smiles in that group.

5.  Bring colors and color books to local hospital waiting rooms:
This was another activity that I know was helpful and appreciated by the staff at our local Children's Hospital.  However, and thankfully, there were no children there the day we dropped them off.  The staff thanked the kids profusely, but after that day, neither child brought this activity up again.  It was like they checked Advent off the list for the day.  Not really what I was hoping for, but again, we don't serve others to gain recognition for ourselves. 

6. Pass out coupons at a local restaurant or shop. (See #1)

7. Hide dollar bills on different products/toys at the dollar shop in our area:
The kids both really loved this one.  Again, it wasn't something that we got thanked for or really one that anyone noticed at the time.  However, the kids loved finding just that special something that they hoped someone would want, and then would have the means to buy it.  I loved seeing what the kids picked out.  The Little Man picked toys.  I could just see his little mind working.  He was thinking, "If I came to this store and found this awesome toy, then asked my mom if I could have it, I bet she would say no.  But then!  THEN!  I would find this dollar and BAM!  I could get it!"




At least that's how I think the conversation in his head went.


The Girl, she went about what she chose differently.  She thought about what people would need, and maybe are having a hard time affording.  So she hid her dollars in the baby aisle. 


In both cases, my heart melted for sure.


Someone asked me, "What if the workers were the ones who found the money, and they just kept it for themselves?"  I guess that could happen, and if it did, we prayed that it would be a worker who really needed the money.

8. Leave a treat and note of thanks for our mailman in the mailbox:


Did she really like the cookies that much?  I don't know, but I was very thankful and happy for her thankfulness.


















9. Collect and put away carts in a shopping center parking lot:
Both the kids and I LOVED this activity.  It was super freezing cold, very dark, and we were in a very busy parking lot, but somehow we managed to have a great time, and no one got killed.  We got to learn a very important lesson:  When you tell someone "thank you", you should always look them in the eye, smile, and have a cheerful and sincere voice.  Sometimes people can say "thanks", but their body language says something very different. 

I could have told them that over and over.  Oh wait, I have.   So for them to actually experience it, was pure gold.  They totally get it now.

Thank you, less than grateful lady in the parking lot.

10. Clean out toy room and donate toys to local toy charity:
This one didn't work out as well as I had hoped.  We got the toy room cleaned out, and the kids really were great about getting rid of stuff with the intention of giving it to someone who would love it.  However, I guess everyone does this at this time of year, and I did ours way too late in the game.  All the local charities were no longer accepting donations for gently use toys.  We still have them and will hopefully be dropping stuff off in the spring.  I wish I would have know that earlier.

11. Pass out coupons at a local restaurant or shop:
See number 1.

12. Treats and note of appreciation to our school secretaries and principals.
13.  Treats and note of appreciation to our school janitor:
I'm going to combine 12 and 13 together because they basically were the same.  I love that these were The Girl's ideas to think of these people.  I also love that the principal sent us a thank you note over the break.  We are learning the value of heart felt thank you's. 

14.  Spend the day focusing on kindness.  Look people in the eye, smile at everyone, and give compliments generously:
This one was hard for me to monitor.  The kids were at school all day so I have no idea if what they did at school was what they said they did.  Not that I think they are lied, but I am sure school wasn't too conducive to this particular task.  We did, however, work on this throughout the Advent activities.  Especially after the lesson learned in number 9.

15. Send a care package to someone in need of company this Christmas:
Loved this one!  The kids did too.  We took care of my youngest sister who was away from home for her first time this Christmas.  When she called us crying, and telling us how much it meant that she got that package on that particular day, it was really special.  This is one of those activities that I totally saw God's hand put pieces together.

16.  Leave a present with our tip for our waiter/waitress:
This was a really fun activity too.  I was worried what it would be like.  I mean what if our server that night was a total jerk, or just really bad?  Thankfully, our server turned out to be really good, super nice, and very attentive.  At the end of dinner we pulled out our movie theater sized boxes of candy, used the receipt to leave a note saying, "Thanks for making our night so sweet", and then left it under the bill.  The kids totally waited to see what she would do when she saw what we left.  They were happy to report that she smiled really big.

17.  Visit a nursing home with homemade cards for the residents:
This particular activity did not go the way I thought it would at all.  The kids spent most of the afternoon making several cards for some of the seniors living at at local senior home.  I thought for sure they would be very excited to drop them off and to sit and chat for a bit.  Well, I thought that The Girl would like to do that and The Little Man I would help along.  In actuality, it was totally the opposite.  The Girl said that this was her least favorite activity of the entire Advent season.  I could tell too just by looking at her.  She was super uncomfortable around the folks that received our cards, and had a difficult time striking up any conversation.  The Little Man, on the other hand, passed out his cards and then played a little X Box with a few of them. 

At Christmas breakfast, when we discussed our Advent together, The Girl said she just felt really uncomfortable around a bunch of older people who didn't know her but wanted to talk to her.  We discussed how God has asked us to care for the widows and orphans, and how many of those people in that facility are widowed.  We discussed how important it is for people to feel loved and cared for, and how lonely these people could be.  She didn't really change her mind, but that's OK.  God gives each of us a heart for something different.  This just wasn't her thing.

Here are some of the sweet people we met that day:

















18.  Give an appreciation gift to our pastor and his wife:
Just a quick drop off of a Panera gift card for our Pastor and his wife and a note that let them know how much we appreciate how they have cared for our family and the families in our church. 

19.  Pass out meal coupons (fully paid for meals), to those who may go hungry that night:
This was another one that the timing was perfectly orchestrated.  The Hubs just happened to have a block of time in which he could spare, so he was our driver.  This proved to be essential for two reasons: 1.  It snowed that day and I am no good at driving in the snow and 2. Because of the snow there were not as many homeless people out on the streets.  Thankfully, most of them were seeking shelter.   That meant that we needed as many eyes as we could get to find people to pass our coupons out too.  It also meant that these coupons not only fed the person that got them, but it allowed them to seek shelter and warmth for a while.  Again, the fingerprints of God were all over this one.   Because of previous experiences in our Advent activities, the kids really made sure that they caught the person's eyes, smiled at them, and said Merry Christmas.   Thankfully, each person was very gracious and thankful.  This activity happened to be one of my favorites.  I hope in the next year to find a way to serve these people more.

















20.  Hide small toys in a park with a note for the kids who find them:
Unfortunately, the toys were bought for this activity, but we never got the chance to hide them.  Turns out, in December, it snows a lot.  So either it was snowing, or the parks were buried in snow.   We will donate the toys with the other gently used toys we cleaned out of our toy room.

21.  Bring goodies and note of thanks to our local librarians.
This was pretty fun.  We go to our local library quite frequently.   My kids read like crazy, so it was only appropriate that we thank them for helping us to enjoy reading so much.  They were ever so grateful and were surprised that we thought of them.  I love that they felt loved.

22.  Donate food to our local food bank:
This was my other favorite.  Our local food bank serves over 500 families in our small town.  FIVE HUNDRED.  These are kids who go to our schools, families who we see at the parks, people who we may interact with on some level somewhere in our community, and they are hungry.  The man that was accepting donations that day took us on a tour of the facility and explained how everything worked.  It was fascinating.  He said that after six months (on average) 80% of the people who use the pantry are back up on their feet again and do not require assistance any longer.  Many of them come back as volunteers.  That is a great success rate.  My heart was full that day, and I totally see myself back there again soon to donate my time.


23.  Bring goodies to all of our neighbors:
This was especially fun this year because we have new neighbors.  I have enjoyed getting to know them more, and hope to be able to know them better in the new year.

24.  Leave diapers and wipes at a couple of changing stations:
Honestly, we skipped this one.  Here's the deal.  After about the half way mark, these Advent activities became very difficult to keep up with.  The kids were burning out, and I was burning out trying to keep them from burning out.  While all of the activities got done, some got done on different days than we originally planned, and this one got left out all together.  I really prayed a lot through out this Advent, and I felt like there were some things that just were things to check off  a list.  I didn't want that.  When we were more open to being spirit led, instead of being task oriented, our activities touched our hearts much more deeply. 


All in all, I did really love our Advent this year.  It was a LOT of work.  No joke.  And it was also during an already busy time of the year.  I would like to do something similar next year, but there will be some tweaks to it. 

I think having a couple of days where we can do fun things as a family would be a great way to recharge batteries and prevent burn out.   That works very well with the fact that some of the activities were not liked as much.  Does that mean that all activities we don't like we don't have to do? No.  It means that I would like to spend more time praying over activities before making our list of stuff to do rather than making a list and then praying that what we do would bless people.  Next year, I hope to be more spirit led and less task oriented, so I might also consider lightening the load during the time when the kids are in school, after school activities, and all the other things that come along with the Christmas season to make it totally nuts.  Even though I say I would want to make some tweaks, I would still do it again. 


Prayerfully, next year we will.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Turns Out, There Were Reasons To Get Out of Our Jammies

While it was the goal of both kids to never leave the house or their pajamas until Christmas day, other stuff has drawn them into the "Land of the Living". 

Much to their chagrin, the kids needed to leave the house a few times in order to do our advent activities. 

I know.  I must be the meanest mom on the planet, right?  I mean, I MADE them get dressed so they could pass out meal coupons to the homeless, go the library and bring treats to the librarians, pass out Christmas goodies to our neighbors, and bring a donation to our local food bank. 

Horrible.  Just horrible.  I guess they could have done all of those things in their PJ's. 

However, The Little Man got the fun opportunity to do something he's been wanting to do for a little while now.  The Hubs took him up for some snowboarding on Wednesday.  He took a lesson for the whole day, while The Hubs watched (The Hubs was supposed to also go boarding, but his boots were not fitting properly, thus he sat and watched the lesson.).  After hearing about how much fun it was to watch The Little Man, I was a little sad that I missed it.  Instead, The Girl and I spent a day together doing some girly type stuff.  We planned holiday menus, made lists, ate out for lunch, got a pedicure, and watched a movie.  So all in all, I think we had a great time too.  All four of us met up later at a Mexican restaurant, and shared our days with one another.  Fun was had by all, and not one of us was in our pajamas. 


















Turns out snowboarding is way more fun in snow pants, a hat, some boots, a coat, and some gloves.

Yesterday, we had quite the little snow storm.  It dumped about eleven inches of the white stuff.  So, right after breakfast, both kids were anxious to get out into it and play.  PJ's don't really work for that either. 

Funny, no one complained.

After an hour or so, they were ready to come inside, and warm up.  They were ready to get back into those jammies for the rest of the day.  Off goes the coats, hats, mittens, boots, and then the snow pants.  That's when The Little Man stopped.

p: Oooops.
me: What's the problem?  Did you rip the pants?  Are they stuck?
p: No.  I just need to go to my room to finish changing.
me: No.  Please don't.  I'd rather all the cold snow stay down stairs on this towel.  It makes it much easier to clean up.
p: I can't.
me: Why?
p: I don't have any pants on.
me: What? What does that mean, you "Don't have any pants on?"
p: It means I am just in my undies under here.
me: What?  You are just in your underwear under there?
p: Yes.
me: You mean you went outside in the freezing cold snow with no pants on except for your snow pants?
p: Yes.  I didn't want to get dressed today, Mama.  So I'm kinda naked under here.

Sure enough, there were no clothes under those snow pants.

Nice.

Thankfully, his father was with him snowboarding.  Lunch would have been pretty embarrassing if we would've let him dress himself.

The lengths he will go to avoid getting dressed for the day.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Our Goals, They Are Lofty

My heart is happy. 

It is Christmas Break.

*Sigh*

I think it's safe to say that when you ask most kids what they would like to do for Christmas Break,  many would say things like: "Hang out with friends", "Go to the movies", "Go skiing", or many many other things that would include "Going" or "Doing".

Not my kids.

Upon entering the house after school on Friday, The Little Man declared,  "YES!  It's finally Christmas Break.  I am going to put on my jammies and not take them off for seven straight days!"

When I casually responded that it would be awkward for him to be in his jammies when we were out doing some of our Advent activities, he actually started to cry. 

I thought he was exaggerating. 

I guess not.

When The Girl came home from school later that afternoon (Little Man only does half day kindergarten), she too had a proclamation of how she would like to spend her Christmas Break. 

"YES!  Finally I can sleep in all the way until 9:30 the next night if I want to!  I'm going to sleep, sleep, sleep!"

Well.

Who am I to stand in the way of greatness?

Monday, December 12, 2011

No Condemnation

Clearly, all that blogging in November set me up for a small break here in December. 

Whew!

Actually, that Advent project that I posted on, just previous to this post, well, it turns out I was right.  It's taking up some serious time.  Which isn't all that bad.  Needless to say, there will be some changes made to this project next year.  However, I want to follow it all out as planned before I make any decisions on how it could be different.  Who knows, maybe when it's all said and done, I will think, "Yep, it was all worth it.  I wouldn't change a thing!" 

We'll see!

At some point, I would like to share the pictures of some of the projects we've done.  Honestly, though, I haven't really taken too many.  At first, I kept forgetting my camera, which is odd since I was just using my phone, and I never leave home without my phone.  Somehow, I managed to forget my phone at home a few times in a row.  Then, at other times, it just seemed awkward to take a picture.  I felt weird pulling my camera out.  Like it was inappropriate.  Also, I kept feeling reminded of the fact that we weren't doing this for ourselves (i.e. to make some sort of scrapbook or to share pics with grandma, etc.).  We were doing this for the people who we had chosen to share God's love with.  Taking a picture just makes it feel like a project to document, or something.  All that to say, I only have a few pics...for good reason.

One last thing about Advent before I share what I came here to share:  I love that somehow number 4 is missing on my list of things we are doing.  I am certain that I didn't skip number 4 when I originally typed out the post.  In fact, I actually went back and forth as to whether or not I should put that activity on my blog.  Number 4 was a project that I wanted to be kind of secret since the person who would be receiving it might read this blog or hear about our Advent activities.  I didn't want whoever received number 4 to think that they were part of a "project".  Because they weren't.  They received number 4 because we love them, and we felt the Spirit lead us to them.  Yes, it was on the list of "things to do", but we really prayed over that particular activity, and I am thankful for the way it all came together and turned out.  The recipients were blessed, and we were as well.  So, the fact that number 4 never showed up on the blog made it even more special, and I didn't need to worry.

So.   That's Advent. 

So far.

I hope to have time soon to go through each experience, not to bore you to death, but to remember for ourselves.

Speaking of remembering, I am now remembering the real reason I logged in tonight....

The other night, as we finished up reading our Bible story, there were some discussion questions.  One of the questions asked, "Have you ever confessed a sin to God?  How do you know you were forgiven?"

I absolutely adored The Little Man's response:
me: After you told God what you did and asked for Him to forgive you, did He?
p: Yes.
me: How do you know?
p: Because, when I first prayed to Him and told Him what I did I felt really bad.  But then I asked Him if I could be forgiven.  Right away I felt really good again.  It was like I was all better.  That's how I know He forgave me.  I didn't feel bad anymore.  I felt really good again. I could just go on.

I love how simple "Childlike faith" is. 

He confessed and was forgiven.  Just like God says He will do when we come to Him in true repentance.  I always want to make it more difficult.  Maybe carry around some guilt for awhile, or sit around waiting on some form of punishment.

Instead, His word tells us:
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." -Romans 8:1-2

And:
 “Their sins and lawless acts
   I will remember no more.”

 18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary." -Hebrews 10:17-18

Thank you, Jesus.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's Time for Advent!

I cannot believe today is the first day of December!  Where did this year go?

As we have been slowly getting ready for Christmas since October, thanks to many stores decorating well before Halloween has even gotten here, my mind has been really struggling with doing something different.  I feel like sometimes, with wanting to keep up with tradition, even though I want to/intend to really focus our family on Christ, giving, and servant-hood, each and every year we get wrapped back up into going, doing, and buying for ourselves. 

Meanwhile, the entire time I'm constantly telling the kids, "Christmas is a time for giving, not receiving."   And they're all, "We know, Mom!" as they roll their eyes.  Not because they don't want to give, but because I say it all. The. Time.  Why?  Because I feel like I have to overcompensate in telling them because we lack in the DOING.  I am hoping that by saying it over and over and over, that somehow it will get into their minds and hopefully their hearts. 

What I have been missing is the doing.  That's how we learn.  When we do, it becomes a part of us, and we remember how it felt.  So, this year instead of hoping it will be different, it will be different.  Instead of talking about it, we're going to do it!

This year, inside of our advent calendar, instead of having chocolates, small gifts, or an idea for a Christmas/winter craft or activity with the family, the kids will find instructions for doing a Random Act of Kindness.  A way to give to someone else.  This Christmas as we talk about how we celebrate the gift of God's Son to us by giving gifts to others, we are actually going to give gifts to others all Advent long.

Thankfully, I'm not the one who invented the wheel on this one!  There are many blogs/articles/TV shows/books out there that talk about Random Acts of Kindness and giving to others.  So instead of re-inventing the wheel, we are totally using the wheel...and taking it apart a little...and rebuilding it as our own. 

Truth be told, I am totally overwhelmed by the amount of effort that serving others each day of this Advent season (which is usually the busiest time of the year) that this is going to take.  However, I recognize that when things are hard, they are totally worth it.  Will this mean we get to do all the other things we used to do before Christmas?  You know, the other stuff that kept us busy.  Maybe.  But maybe we'll have to say "no" to some things too.   That's OK.  I am sure that what we are doing instead, will be totally worth it.   Also, I am already seeing God's hand in this. 

First, the kids are super, super excited.  They've been counting down to advent since I told them what we were doing over a week ago.  That right there is motivation for me, as well as evidence that they too are ready to live out their faith and put some action to words already!  Secondly, as I have been feeling overwhelmed about staying organized and making sure I leave enough time for each activity and the prep for each activity, God has really opened doors, made time, and even made financial provisions for some of the gifts planned.  Since this is only the first day, I can't wait to see all He does in the next 24 days.  And I can't wait to see the kids see all He can do, either.

I don't know if I'll be able to blog each and every day.  Actually, I know I WON'T be blogging our adventures each and everyday.  Remember: there will be somethings I will have to say "no" to.  But, each time I come here, I will try to update the best that I can.  I really want to photograph and write about each and every thing, word, and emotion.  However, I also must recognize that I am not doing this for us.   No, this is for others. 

So, what about today?  Today we went through some of the coupon books that we had purchased in support of some high school sport teams.   It kills me that so many of them expire and never get used, either because I forget I have them or because we don't go to those restaurants or shops.  One particular coupon book had some pretty great coupons.  I mean these coupons where for like $10 and $15 off with no minimum purchase required.  That's like a gift card in my world.  So, instead of letting them go to waste, we gave them out.  Tonight, at around dinner time, we parked outside of each place and waited for someone to go inside.  As they did, the kids got out and asked if they would like a coupon for their meal.  Of course, people were totally excited to have a coupon.  When they saw how much it was for, they were a little taken aback.  Some asked, "Are you sure you are not going to use it?"  others asked, "Why? What do I have to do?"  Both kids were excited to say, "It's yours for nothing!"  Thankfully, the recipients were very gracious and kind, which was very encouraging to both kids.  They both got back into the car excited about helping someone out, and very excited about what was waiting for them in the advent calendar tomorrow.

Here they are, ready with coupons!


Here's a list of what will be up to this month:
1. Pass out coupons at a local restaurant or shop.
2. Put change for a drink in a Ziploc bag and tape it to a couple of vending machines with a special note.
3. Make Christmas treats for our local firehouse.

5.  Bring colors and color books to local hospital waiting rooms.
6. Pass out coupons at a local restaurant or shop.
7. Hide dollar bills on different products/toys at the dollar shop in our area.
8. Leave a treat and note of thanks for our mailman in the mailbox.
9. Collect and put away carts in a shopping center parking lot.
10. Clean out toy room and donate toys to local toy charity.
11. Pass out coupons at a local restaurant or shop.
12. Treats and note of appreciation to our school secretaries and principals.
13.  Treats and note of appreciation to our school janitor.
14.  Spend the day focusing on kindness.  Look people in the eye, smile at everyone, and give compliments generously.
15. Send a care package to someone in need of company this Christmas.
16.  Leave a present with our tip for our waiter/waitress.
17.  Visit a nursing home with homemade cards for the residents.
18.  Give an appreciation gift to our pastor and his wife.
19.  Pass out meal coupons (fully paid for meals), to those who may go hungry that night.
20.  Hide small toys in a park with a note for the kids who find them.
21.  Bring goodies and note of thanks to our local librarians.
22.  Donate food to our local food bank.
23.  Bring goodies to all of our neighbors.
24.  Leave diapers and wipes at a couple of changing stations.

On the 25th, I hope to discuss, celebrate, and praise all the ways that God has worked and been glorified through the month...as well as celebrate the best gift ever given.  His Son.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thankfulness Wrap-Up

To wrap up my "Month of Thanks", I think I will just list off a few things I've been thankful for the past two days, and then have some final thoughts.

(Why I felt the need to explain that, I have no clue.)

I am thankful for:

1) The fact that today is my parent's 39th wedding anniversary (Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!).  I am so thankful for the blessing of their marriage.  I have come to a new appreciation for the commitment, selflessness, and work it takes to be married for any length of time.   I am very thankful for the example they have given not only my sisters and I, but also the next generation of our family.  It's a real gift, and I am thankful.

2) The Little man never letting me down when it comes to making me laugh.  Yesterday, after discussing the next big Kindergarten unit at school, Kindergarten Economics, he announced that his dream job when he got older was to be a Game Show Announcer. 

I have no clue.

Since he was dead serious, and after a few questions I discovered he also knew exactly what he was talking about,  I just tried to do my best to not burst out laughing.  I think there was also a moment when he actually suggested that, "Someday the guy who's on Wheel of Fortune might want to take a break".  The Hubs was also dead serious when he said, "I just hope that's something he grows out of.".  Which was also outrageously funny to me. 

Honey, if you are reading this, I think we're safe.

Oh, laughter, I am thankful for you!

3) The gorgeous weather I was able to soak up today, especially knowing that tomorrow will be a day full of snow and cold.

4) Having a great conversation with two of my sisters in the last two days.  I am so thankful that, as adults, we choose to be each others friends and support.

5) Running into a friend at the library.  Through catching up on each other, she spoke truth and life to me, and I to her.  Each one of us unknowingly.  I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit and the way he leads, councils, and encourages.

Lastly, and at the risk of sounding corny, I am so thankful for this "Month of Thankfulness".  I will confess that at the beginning of the month I thought I needed a little help with my attitude, and as a traditionalist, since I had done this before felt almost obliged to do it again.  However, through the month I have been convicted over and over again of my lack of thankfulness and gratitude.  I had let the sin of complaint, feeling sorry for myself, and over all joylessness creep into my heart and take up residence.  I have allowed myself to believe that it was OK to do these things because of circumstances that have surrounded our family for this past year.

Finding things to be thankful for each day has put me into a better position to draw nearer to my Lord.  I cannot believe some of the ways He has gently and loving spoken to my heart this past month, through my morning devotional, about my sin.  He has opened up my eyes not only to the problem in my heart, but also to the freedom only He can offer me.  The freedom of being joyful and thankful in any and all circumstances.  Thankful that my life is perfectly planned out by a loving Father with eternal perspective.  That each thing He chooses for me, He chooses out of love.  Thankful that I have a Father who does not compromise.  Even when that means I have a difficult road to travel at times.  These are things worthy of praise and thanksgiving.  I love the way Sarah Young's devotional Jesus Calling kind of wrapped up my month yesterday when she wrote (from the perspective of Jesus speaking to me):

"...However, I have taken you along a path that has highlighted your need for Me: placing you in situations where your strengths were irrelevant and your weaknesses were glaringly evident.  Through the aridity of those desert marches, I have drawn you closer and closer to Myself.  You have discovered flowers of Peace blossoming in the most desolate places.  You have learned to thank Me for hard times and difficult journeys, trusting that through them I accomplish My best work.  You have realized that needing Me is the key to knowing Me intimately, which is the gift above all gifts."

And that is how I would wrap up this month.  God is most certainly working on my heart in the area of thankfulness in all circumstances.  It's hard work.  Painful work at times.  But I know that He is faithful finish the work He has started (Phil. 1:6), that he will never leave me nor forsake me (Deut. 31:6), and that nothing will seperate me from His love (Rom 8:38).

I can be thankful for those things 365 days a year.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Laughter

Today I am thankful for laughter.  I little comic relief.  Sometimes I take life a little too serious, and I miss out on the times when I can just laugh. 

Tonight, as we watched TV together, as a family, one of the people on the TV started speaking in Spanish.  At some point she said "Mi Amor".  The Girl quickly picked up on that and said, "Oh I know what she is talking about.  She's talking about love and kissing."  I responded with, "Oh really? How do you know?"

"Because, Mom, I heard her say 'amor' and that means love.  Remember, I take Spanish in school?"  She taught us the words for love and kiss. That's about the only useful thing I have gotten out of that class!" she came back with, very matter-of-fact like.

Laughter.  It's something to be thankful for.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Family and Time

Saturday, November 28th
Today I am thankful for my family.  I am thankful for each person separately as well as our whole family unit.  The Hubs works hard, and is probably the most generous person that I know.  The Girl is very compassionate and is such a great care taker.  She never has to be asked to help someone hurt or sick.  She just does.  Instinctively.  And The Little Man, he's an encourager in his core.  He also loves to give, just like his dad. 

Today, as we went shopping for The Girl's Christmas gift, I had to explain to him that Christmas lists are something we can use to get an idea of what people like.  They aren't a list of everything we need to buy for that person.  He just responded with, "But these are all the things she wants, and I want to make sure she gets all of them."

Love that.

As I met with some girls at dinner and we talked about family dynamics, marriage, and children, I couldn't help but notice how content I was with what God has given me.   He has blessed me abundantly in this area, and I feel as though my heart could burst with thankfulness.

Today:
I am thankful for the amount of time we have had off from school and schedules, and the amount of stuff that was accomplished in this time.  I think we need to have two-day-weeks more often.  I feel very rested and ready to start a new week.  I feel organized and ready to take on the tasks that lay before me.  I feel thankful for the time off, and thankful that I am not dreading going back. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Hangover

Ugh.

I feel so "eh".

If that is even a word.

As I was out for a walk today, I realized that this was the first Thanksgiving in five years that I wasn't part of some sort of Turkey-Trot or did some sort of pre-feast damage control in the form of a long run.  With the bum hip this year, the run was a no-go.  Yesterday, I didn't really miss it at all.  It was quite wonderful to have a full day focused on my family and enjoying the day.  Today, I felt it.  Thankfully, I had time for a short walk, which really  helped.  I am also thankful to have something to look forward to on Monday: back to scheduled workouts. 

Tonight I am thankful for traditions.  It's Polar Express night in our house.  I love this family tradition that we have.  It is such a great way to kick off the Christmas season.  I am thankful for the consistency in it, and that the kids look forward to it as much as I do. 

(So, after searching for the link above I discovered that this is our SEVENTH year of this tradition! We started this tradition two years before I started this blog.  Time flies when you are having fun.)

It's time to snuggle into some warm jammies, get the hot cocoa going, and get ready for Christmas!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

At Least I Posted on Thanksgiving Day

So, my track record posting here each day is less than stellar.  I realize this.  However, I was bound and determined to be here on Thanksgiving day.  

Tuesday, November 22nd:
So thankful that today is the last day of the school week.  I don't know about the kids, but I am so looking forward to having some time off of school.  Some time not to pack lunches, not to wake up early, and NO HOMEWORK!  I am also looking forward to spending some time with them at home.

With me. 

I love and am thankful for that part the most. 

I am also thankful for the walk that The Hubs and I got to take together today.  It was so nice to be able to re-connect in the middle of the day.  I am thankful for his job that allows him to work from home, which allows for spontaneous walks.  I think that Gracie (the dog) was thankful too!

Wednesday, November 23:
I am so thankful for the time I got to spend with the kids today. Before I got out of bed, I had some wonderful prayer time.  I asked the Lord to help me to be especially intentional with them today.  Without His help, I can sometimes lean more towards the "go find something to do with your sister/brother, while I find interesting things on the computer" method.  Yup, I can be a pretty stellar mom sometimes.  But I really wanted something different for today.  And I loved how our day turned out.

We started off by planning some fun Christmas activities, since, you know, December starts next week.  Then we watched a couple of cartoons together (I cleaned up breakfast as well).  After that, we went on a walk together (the kids rode their scooters while I walked).  I loved watching them have so much fun riding around, racing each other, trying new tricks.  The sky was super blue, and I had the perfect praise music the whole walk.  It really was a wonderful 35 minutes.  Even the dog did pretty well on her leash, and I didn't have to clean up after her once.  That's huge!  Later, we went to lunch together, and ate out on the patio.  The weather was stellar, and the kids and I were able to have some great conversation.  I am so thankful that we are in a stage of conversation.  I love hearing what's on their minds and hearts.  Next, we did a little Christmas ornament shopping.  We were bummed to find out that we were not going to find the types of ornaments we were looking for in the stores, and would have to go online instead.  It's just not as fun online.  However, when we got home, we decided that something a little more personal would be better.  So, using our Halloween pics, we made our own ornaments through a photo site.  I'm excited to see how they turn out.  Then, we wrapped up the day enjoying some Survivor together.   I am just so thankful for the time we got to spend together. It was just what my mommy heart needed. 

Today:
Today, I am thankful for my family.  We were so blessed to have both sets of parents, as well as an uncle of mine, over to our home today.  The house was full, but not overwhelming, the food was good, and the conversation nice.  Everything seemed to be low-key.  I got to try my hand at making my first pumpkin pie, and I was pretty impressed, if I do say so myself. 

Our parents are so important to us, especially in this past year.  It was nice to have them around the table, and to give thanks together.  We did not have had the best set of circumstances this year, so it was nice to have those who understand the weight of it all, and who could appreciate the gratitude that we have in our hearts. 

I loved and was thankful for my devotional today (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young) which reminded me of the importance of thankfulness:

"Thankfulness takes the sting out of adversity.  That is why I have instructed you to give thanks for everything.  There is an element of mystery in this transaction.  You give me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you joy (regardless of your circumstances)."

It goes on to say, "Thankfulness opens your heart to My Presence and your mind to My thoughts. You may still be in the same place, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see from My perspective.  It is this Light of My Presence that removes the sting from adversity."

What a great reminder on this day of thankfulness. 

Lord, help me to see all the things that you have placed in my day that are worthy of gratitude.  Thank you for loving me so much that you have gone before me and placed little treasures for me to find.  Open my eyes to your gifts.  Help my heart to trust you in all circumstances, giving thanks to you for your promises, which I can hold onto with assurance, despite the adversity that life brings.  Amen.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thankful to Blame it on Him

November 20
So....I have this really great husband.  Most of the time he is a couple of steps ahead of me in whatever is going on.  Many times that means he is closing down shop for the night, in our house, before I can get to the computer to do my "Thankful Post".   What I am trying to do here is tell you why it is nearly impossible for me to get to this blog more that two days in a row.

He's my excuse. 

He's what I am thankful for. 

Even though he has been incredibly ill this entire year, he never stops.  He is always doing his best.  He is super generous,  and is always giving more than he takes.

After this past year, I am more thankful than ever to have him here with us each day.

Today, I am thankful for my husband.


Today:
I saw this on Facebook (sometimes there are some good things on that site!).  It reminded me of why I wanted to do "A Month of Thanks" again this year.  I think sometimes we just get too wrapped up in ourselves, and we forget just how blessed we are. 

I am thankful.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

He Is Always at Work

Friday, November 18th
I had the opportunity tonight to share the "highlights" of 2011 with a group from our church.  It's no secret that 2011 hasn't been kind to us.  This year has brought a lot of pain, sadness, and circumstances that I do not want to remember, re-live, or "highlight".  When I shared this with the group, who all know what this year has brought to our family, The Hubs said, "Oh, come on, Hon!  Surely, there is something good.  Right?"  And you know what?  He is right.  With the yuck this year has come tremendous amount of growth.  Growth personally, growth in my marriage, growth for us as a family.  We have learned so much this year about who we are, what is important, and how much we need and love God.

I don't want to do 2011 again, but I am thankful for what was learned and how I/we have grown.  I wouldn't trade that in for any amount of gold, and I am thankful for the change in my perspective.

Today:
I am thankful for the opportunity that has been given to me to share God's love with the girls in a detention center in my area.  I am thankful that He is moving and working in that dark place.  I am thankful that there are no places off limits to Him.  He sees all, He loves all, and He is waiting patiently for them.  I am so thankful for the privilege of being apart of what He is doing in that place.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Friendships

Thankful for time with a friend.  Nothing better than some good laughs and a few tears, to be heard, and to be understood. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Still Playing Catch-Up

GAH!  I'm not sure how so many days have gone by without me posting.  I will say each night that I have gone to bed without doing a "thankful post", I have been awakened right as I was falling asleep remembering that I had forgotten to do my post.  Let's hope that by getting all caught up today, that I will get in a wonderfully full night's sleep tonight...A girl can hope.

Sunday, November 13th:
Church, a nap ( Hello!  That's praise worthy all by itself.), flowers from my men, and the kids playing themselves silly OUTDOORS.  It was a blissful day.

Monday, November 14th:
My sister's birthday (so thankful for family!), a little substitute teaching (thankful for provision and joy in my work), some much needed girl time (SO, SO thankful for friends who encourage, listen, laugh, and challenge (in an iron sharpening iron sort of way), and last but certainly not least, OK, it's probably one of the biggest thanks I have had in months, my cousin asking Christ into her heart.  I had the absolute honor of praying with her for her salvation.  It was so awesome, humbling, wonderful, and joy-filled.  Really, there are no words to totally describe it.  I am so thankful that I will get to see her in Heaven one day, and we can now be called "Sisters" in Christ.  What a blessing!  He is the Author and Perfecter, and WOW he totally showed off!

Tuesday, November 15th:
I am so thankful for my health.  And for what amounts to a large zit.

Seriously.

I had a doctor's appointment for a very suspicious spot that sort of came up out of nowhere.  It was funky in color and had a hard cyst-like thing underneath it.  Having had skin-cancer recently, I knew I shouldn't fool around.  However, I got a little nervous about what they were going to say, and then I got a little busy, and then I had a big bout of denial I was trying to deal with.  Well, finally, I got up enough nerve to just go to the doctor.  The Hubs was so comforting through the whole ordeal.  I mean each and every time he would look at me he would remind me, "Oh Honey!  That is cancer on your face.  You better get to the doctor right away."  or "Whoa!  That is looking so horrible.  I'm serious, Hon.  You should get to the doctor.  It has to be cancer."

So, basically I was full of peace and surrounded by encouragement and comfort.

Anywho, it turned out to be a cyst, which the doctor is pretty confident is NOT cancerous.  The way she described it made me ask her, "So, basically what you are saying is you think I have a ginormous zit on my cheek that is buried so deep that I'll never get the chance to pop it?"  To say she was impressed with my tact and vast medical understanding is a total understatement.

I walked out of the office so super thankful for my ginormous zit.  But mostly, I am so thankful for my health.  I do not want to make light of the fact that some people yesterday were not blessed by the news I received, but instead heard other news. 

Today:
So thankful, again, for provision.  Today, while walking back to my small group for Bible study, the line for the food pantry at the church was so long.  I couldn't help but notice all the faces.  These are real people.  They have real needs.  And there were many.  I am so thankful for food pantries, for those who share their abundant blessings, and a chance to be reminded to look out of my own small world.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Doubling Up...Again!

November 11
Today, I am thankful for the gorgeous weather we have been blessed with this far into fall.  It has allowed me to enjoy walks either in the morning or afternoon.  While I miss running (I've been sidelined for about a month now due to a nagging injury that happened back in March), I'm enjoying being able to share these walks with both the dog and The Little Man.  Most of the time The Little Man brings his scooter along and zooms way out in front of me, driving the dog crazy since she insists on being "lead dog".  Today, however, The Little Man decided he wanted to challenge himself and run the whole way.  I am happy to report: He did great! 

He did not run the entire distance, choosing to stop and walk a couple of times, but once he caught his breath he was back at it again.  Towards the end of the route, he was needing some encouragement.  So I started challenging him to make it all the way to a chosen landmark without stopping.  As he arrived to each chosen spot, he would look back at me with a huge smile on his face and wait for me to give him a thumbs-up.  Then we would choose a new spot and start again.  The last leg of the walk was the longest.  As I watched him run off into the distance I could see that several times he was struggling.  He kept grabbing at his side and his steps would slow.  Just when I thought he would stop, he would pick up his pace again.  As I came around the corner to see him waiting for me at our chosen landmark, he looked at me with the biggest smile on his face.  I hollered out, "Did you make it?"  His thumbs went up. 

As I got closer, he told me, "Mom, I can't believe I did it!  I kept wanting to stop, but I just wouldn't let myself.  Then when I got here, I almost started crying I was so happy.  I did it, Mom!  I did it!  I just can't believe it!"

I love it when my kids realize they are capable.  When they try and try and then achieve.

I am thankful I got to see this achievement by The Little Man.

On a not-so-tender note, I am also thankful for Harry Potter 7 part 2, which came out on DVD today.  I loved it just as much at home as I did in theaters. 

Today, I am thankful for an early photo shoot which freed up the rest of my Saturday to do nothing.  Well, I did go grocery shopping.  Other than that, there were just some small house chores and a Harry Potter marathon.  I am also thankful because, after today, I officially have a couple week break from photography.  After a busy, "busy season", I am looking forward to catching my breath.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Two Days of Thankfulness

November 9,
Thankful for:
  • A refreshing walk in the crisp autumn air with good music.  
  • An easy pre-made dinner.  I just warmed it up and we ate.  (So thankful for those snow days we've had in the last few weeks which bought me the time to make quite a few meals ahead of time for the freezer!)
  • A dog groomer who let us sneak in an emergency bath after Grace rolled in something I don't want to talk about.
  • Survivor.  Our family loves that show.
  • Time all by myself yesterday afternoon.  Since The Hubs works from home (which I am also VERY grateful for) it's a rare occasion that I get the whole house to myself.  It was nice.
Today:
  • My first day, in MANY years, back in the classroom.  I had my first sub job today at the kids' school, and it went great!  
  • Two kids with two great report cards.
  • Red Robin.  The place we celebrated the great grades, and where I found reprieve from making dinner.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Picture Does No Justice




































After picking up The Girl from drama club, I got to see this beauty on the way home. 

I know you can't tell from my stellar iPhone photography (that I waited until I was at a stop light before I took thankyouverymuch), but the sun was actually pink.

Not the clouds around the sunset, but the actual sun.

Pink.

Awesome.

Of all the different ways God could create the world we live in to look like, He chooses beauty.

Thankful.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Not For The Faint of Heart

I'm not too easily scared by animals or insects.  It's not like I enjoyed it when I went into my garden four summers ago and found it infested with six or seven large garter snakes.  And yes, I get a little jumpy if there is a rodent in the vicinity.  Also, if a bee or spider is in the area, I'll leave the area quickly, or quickly stomp or swat the little bugger.   But, you won't usually find me squealing, jumping up and down frantically (well, sometimes a mouse will get me in a small tizzy if I'm caught off guard), or avoiding activities/events because I have a fear of an animal or insect.  (Mostly because I try to channel all of the fear I can possibly have in life towards something else...which I will not mention because I can't without sweating.)

However, today, as I was reaching into a corner to put away some of my photography equipment, I saw this:























Yes. 

That is a Black Widow. 

Yes.

A poisonous spider in a living area in my home. 

There she is hanging out near the carpet along one of the baseboards.

IN. MY. HOME.

I was a little freaked.

Actually, I wasn't too freaked in the moment, even though I did have The Hubs come and kill her.  But that was mostly because I wanted confirmation of what I was looking at.

No, actually after she was dead, that's when I really got scared.  That's when I started running through all the "what-if" scenarios. 

What if I would have reached down without seeing her there?  What if she would have climbed into my camera bag and then I reached in later?  What if she would have not crawled to that corner in the wall, but instead over to the pair of shoes that The Little man left out just a few feet away? 

Then my mind went to thinking about where in the world she came from.  As I looked around the room at all my studio equipment and props that I had gotten out just a few days ago for a session over the weekend, I realize that I knew exactly where that spider came from.  She came from my equipment or props which I haven't pulled out from storage in about six months, since all my sessions have been outdoors.  Then my pulse quickened again as I realize that the poisonous spider that The Hubs just killed could have just as easily bitten one of my clients (one of whom was only seven weeks old) who were using all that equipment and props.

Today, I am thankful for God's protection.  So many bad scenarios could have happened, but they didn't.  Recently I've been praying back, and meditating on, Psalm 91 over my family.  Here are verses 3-6, 9-14.

"3 Surely he will save you
   from the fowler’s snare
   and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
   and under his wings you will find refuge;
   his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
   nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
   nor the plague that destroys at midday..."


"... 9 If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,”
   and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
   no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
   to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
   so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
   you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

 14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him;
   I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name."


Thank you, Lord, for your protection over my family as well as the people I invited into our home.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Weekend Catch-Up

Yesterday (and every day since I bought this devotional), I was super thankful for one of my morning devotionals, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  Yesterday she had this reminder from Philippians 4:12, Genesis 28:15, Philippians 4:19, and Romans 8:38-39.  The way that this devotional is written is from God's perspective to us, His children.  Each morning, I am so touched by what is in this devotional.  It always seems to hit a soft spot in my heart.  Yesterday morning was no different.  Not only did it hit a soft spot, but it was also encouraging, as well as a wee bit (OK, may be a LOT) convicting.  She writes:  "People tend to think their circumstances determine the quality of their lives.  So they pour their energy in to trying to control those situations. They feel happy when things are going well, and sad or frustrated when things don't turn out as they'd hoped.  They rarely question this correlation between their circumstances and feelings.  Yet it is possible to be content in any and every situation...Don't let your well-being depend on your circumstances.  Instead, connect your joy to My precious promises: I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.  I will meet all your needs according to My glorious riches.  Nothing in all creation will be able to separate you from My Love."

I was even more thankful that The Lord gave me an opportunity, not too much later in the morning, to encourage and love on someone else with these exact words.   I love it when He does that!

Today, I am so thankful for our church.  Sunday is my most favorite day of the week.  Nothing can be sweeter than having a full day devoted to worship, praise, and spiritual cleansing, especially when it is done with other believers.   I am fully aware that not all people have the opportunity to worship with others freely, as I do each Sunday.   It's such a gift, and I am thankful.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I Heart Teacher In-Service Days

Thankful today for the kids having a day off of school.  I rolled over, looked at the clock, and it was 8 am.

That may not sound too terribly late to you, but normally on a school day, I'm up at six.

An extra day to catch up felt wonderful.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Looking in the Right Direction

1.  So thankful, today, for the warm sunshine to return.  After a snow day, like yesterday, it's always good to see the sun again.

2.  On Thursdays, I have been volunteering in The Little Man's classroom teaching some of the higher level math kids in a small group.  After having a few lessons fall a bit short, I was so thankful today for a smooth flowing lesson, where all the kids participated, and where no one was left behind.  I am really enjoying doing some teaching again, and am amazed at the change in my heart towards this.  Since having children of my own, I was certain I would never return to the classroom again.  Teaching and raising my own kids at the same time sounded like a nightmare.  In the last few months, God has really changed the way I feel about this.  It's actually been an answer to prayer.  Even though the answer looks so much different than what I expected, I can see how He is answering. 

3.  On the same note, I am thankful for the opportunity given to me today to come back and do some substitute teaching next week.  I am excited to get back into the classroom, and also nervous to find out how rusty I really am.

4.  I am thankful for this blog post that I stumbled upon while on Pintrest today.  Each year I try to find something to prepare our hearts for the holiday season, and I think this is it.  I know she did her 35 random acts of kindness to celebrate her 35th birthday, but I think I may adapt this for advent this year.  I have been thinking all day of all sorts of different ways we can serve and show the love of Christ to others in our own community.  While I do have some ideas of my own, I am totally going to steal many of hers.  I can't wait!

All in all it was a great day.  I felt like I was continually looking for that "thing" to be thankful for.  So much better than finding something to be crabby about!  The Lord gave me this great reminder before I started my day today:

"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." -Col 4:2 NIV

I also loved the way The Message translated the same verse:

"Pray diligently. Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude."

A good reminder that I must be devoted/diligent to being thankful.  My eyes need to be "wide open".

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thankfullness

So, remember last year when each day (or as close to each day as I could get) of November I posted about something I was thankful for?  Well, I wanted to do that again.  In fact, I had every intention of doing that again.  Except, it's only the second day in November, and I'm already behind.  I fear that this might be some horrible foretaste of what's to come.

However, while I thought about it today, I decided I wasn't going to let getting off on the wrong foot stop me from doing something I really wanted to do.  Plus, it's my blog.  So, you know, I totally make up the rules, and there is no one to contest them.  Score. 

I think the best way for me to keep up with this is to keep things very simple.  Maybe some days just a few words, on others lists, and maybe a real post here and there.  This is what I am going to tell myself so that I won't feel too overwhelmed, at least.  I think this exercise is important for me because I am feeling as though I really need to work on my perspective in life.  It's pretty easy, in this world, to see all the bad things around us.  People's negative attitudes, listening to others tear one another down, focusing on what's fair and what's not, etc.  But none of that breathes life.  None of that builds each other up.  None of that encourages, loves, or helps.  It doesn't help us see others, but keeps us continually focused on ourselves.  Which in turn breeds a negative attitude, keeps us focused on what's fair and what's not, etc. It's a vicious cycle.  Unfortunately, I can get sucked in pretty easily.  Thus, I really need to set up a focused time in which I concentrate on gratitude, thanksgiving, and praise.  It might sound silly, but in the few times that I have done this, it has done wonders.

So, here's to a Month of Thanksgiving 2011:

November 1:
So thankful for the beautiful weather that we had.  The weather reports told us that there was a blizzard waiting for us later that evening, but you would never have known.  So beautiful and calm.  I am thankful that I got to spend some time outdoors soaking it up before the storm.

November 2:
It was a snow day today!  I am so thankful for unplanned time off.  It's such a wonderful gift to be given a free day when you are totally not expecting it.  This lavish gift of time was not wasted today.  I never felt rushed and enjoyed living in each moment. 

I am also thankful for the abundant provision of a home, warm clothing, and food.  On a day like today, when it is horribly cold, snowy, and windy, I am reminded that not everyone has these things.  We have been blessed beyond measure to have what we do.

Lord, help me to be a good steward of the abundant blessings you have given to me.  Help me to see needs and be as generous as possible, knowing that when I "serve the least of these", I am really serving you.  Amen.

Monday, October 31, 2011

It Was a Harry Night

I don't know who was more excited about this year's Halloween costumes...yes, actually I do know.  It was me!  The happiness that filled my heart seeing my two dressed as Harry and Hermione, was overflowing. 

I may or may not of referred to them as Harry and Hermione all day long instead of their actual names.

Embarrassing doesn't quite cover it.

I am a total nut.

When I thought about how I wanted their Halloween pictures to look, all I could think of was making them look as much like the movie posters as possible.  So, with all of our DVDs in hand, we totally copied the posing.  I did the best I could with the lighting I have, and then I went for black and white's because I love them in black and white.

Without further ado, Harry and Hermione: (What if I still call them that tomorrow?  Would that be weird?)






































Do you think I can convince them to be the same thing next year?

I hope so.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Proud Mommy Moments

We are currently on the very last day of our glorious Fall Break.  Like all breaks from school, I have loved every second of our unplanned, no lunch packing, no snack bringing, no homework doing, no early rising week.  Glorious, I tell you.  Glorious.

Over the last few weeks, I have had some "Proud Mommy Moments".  So if you hate moms who brag on their kids, come back another day.  If you are my kids, and you are some age that is far away from eight or six and reading this, well, I just want you to know that I revel in all of your small victories.  I love each and every one of them!

1.  Both kids had parent-teacher conferences a few weeks ago, and both kids did/and are doing so amazingly well that both The Hubs and I left with huge smiles on our faces and in our hearts.  It took everything I had in me not to leave from there and tell everyone I came across how awesome both my kids are doing in school, with all the details to prove it.  Such a great way to start off the school year, and for The Little Man, his school career.

2. Along with number one, I just loved this assignment (for so many reasons) that The Little Man turned in for his "Fall Project":
He decorated the pumpkin and wrote the description all by himself.  If you can't read it, it says, "My pumpkin is Harry Potter (oh, how I love that he chose Harry!).  He has a wond.  He duz magick." Is everything spelled correctly? No.  But for only six weeks into Kindergarten, I have to say, I think I might be raising a genius.

Seriously. 

OK.  I might be half joking. But only half.

3.  While on Fall Break, The Girl has become a little scooter girl.  I mean, she is borrowing a Razor scooter from her cousin, and has been scootering (I might have just made that word up) all over the neighborhood.  I know that this doesn't sound like a very big deal to many (if any at all), but this is the same girl who does NOTHING athletic at all.  She collects bugs (and knows everything about each kind), reads, and cares for small animals and insects like no one's business, but raising her heart rate?  Um, no.  That's not usually on her agenda.  So, needless to say, for her to go out and ride around the neighborhood and join me in walking the dog (while she rides her scooter), has been a pretty large break through.  As she was riding in front of me today on our walk, I was so happy to see her doing something "exercise like" and enjoying it, that my heart was just full of happiness.  (On a side note: While The Girl never participates in sports or activities requiring any sort of stamina at all, somehow she is one of the fastest girls in her grade.  How does that happen?  So odd.)

4.  The Little Man decided he was going to write a book.  After he got started The Girl decided she would join in and help him.  The book's title is: Harry and Ron's ABC's.  Between the two kids, they have come up with words/names/spells from the seven Harry Potter books for each letter of the alphabet.  Pride doesn't quite describe the feelings I had when I saw their list of words.  Each letter (yes, even "X") had at least one reference to the books, some letters have several.  Can't wait to see if they finish this project with their own drawings.  

Harry Potter nerds are we!

5.  Lastly, I was over the top proud of The Little Man earlier this week.  As Fall Break began, he awoke on Saturday morning, and said, "This is the beginning of our nine day weekend!  Woohoo!  I'm going to wear cozy pants every. Single. Day!"

That's my boy. 

I can say, he hasn't missed a single day.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Day Santa Died (And Brought The Tooth Fairy Down with Him)

After school, late in the week last week, there were many tears.  Tears coming from The Little Man, tears coming from The Girl, and a couple of slammed doors.  I was trying to get some work done on the computer, so I decided the best thing to do was to call down each child one at a time, get each child's version of what happened, and then discipline accordingly.

First up, The Little Man:

me: What's going on, Buddy?  What are all the tears and slamming doors about?
p: Sister's mad at me, and she won't play with me anymore until I say I believe in the Pumpkin Elf.
me: Who? What?
p: She's mad at me 'cause I don't want to believe in the Pumpkin Elf.
me: What's a Pumpkin Elf?
p:  This elf that comes when it's close to Halloween and messes up your whole house, but leaves candy everywhere too.
me: I've never heard of a Pumpkin Elf before.  Was sister just trying to make him up so you two could have fun pretending?
p: No!  She said that her friend at school told her all about him and how he came to her house.  Now she wants to set up traps for him and write him notes, and I said I thought it was just a game.  Now she's mad at me.
me:  Well, I don't think the Pumpkin Elf is real either.  I've never heard of him before.  Maybe you could tell her you would like to play, but you don't want to believe in him just to have fun.  You just want to pretend.
p: No, that won't work.  She just wants to make me believe in him.
me: You don't have to if you don't want to.  You can go and play by yourself until she decides it's more fun to play with you than to play by herself.  She'll come and get you soon.

And off he went.  Tears gone.  Conversation over.  I rock at parenting.

Next up: The Girl who just so happens to be crying harder than she was than when I first initiated the conversation with The Little Man.

me: What's up with all the tears? 
d: (Now worked into an ugly cry) The kids at school all said you LIED to me!  They say you are a LIAR and Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy are all FAKE!  Is that true?  Are you telling me LIES?
me: (Completely caught off guard because I was waiting to talk about some weird Pumpkin Elf, and still on the high I had from being a five star parent just moments before) What?
d: Yes.  You have been LYING to me this whole time.  NONE of those people are real, ARE THEY?
me: What do you mean?  I mean, what are the kids at school saying?  (Seriously?  What are these little punks saying?  Don't they know that not answering a question and using distraction is NOT lying?  No, it's something different.  It's called avoidance.)
d: They said that it's moms and dads who are Santa and The Tooth Fairy.  They said that parents just lie to their kids about there being a Santa or Tooth Fairy.  Is this true, Mamma?  Is what they are saying the truth? Have you been lying to me this whole time? I am the ONLY kid in my WHOLE class that said it wasn't.  I am the ONLY one who said that Santa isn't real.  Why?  (She said this with tears streaming down her face and a look of desperation that was so completely sad that I nearly started bawling myself as I relived my own moment of finding out the truth.)
me:  (realizing there is no holding back anything anymore.  I am cornered and there is no more time for avoidance tactics or distractions.  It's time to fess up.  I feel like I just swallowed a rock boulder.) Yes.  What they are saying is true.  I am so sorry. 

I won't go into the rest of the details of this conversation, but I will say there were many, many more tears.  As well as her telling me that ALL of her Christmas memories were "totally ruined" and she "hopes she never remembers all the Christmases past ever again".  Oh, and "I don't ever want to get another Christmas gift."  (Which I might totally hold her to.) (Just kidding.) (Kind of.)

I have to admit, it was kind of a sad night.  Especially since, I asked her to not let her brother in on the conversation we had, yet only moments later I found them in his room with the door closed.  When I opened the door, she glared up at me with tears streaking down her face and a look that said "You're still not forgiven."  The Little Man looked a little sad as well. 

When I asked him later what he and his sister talked about he said, "I don't know.  Do you want to read with me?" 

Avoidance and distraction. 

I know that game.

Monday, October 3, 2011

In Which You Might Reconsider our Invitation to Dine on our Deck

This past weekend, we invited some cousins (and their parents of course) over for some dining on the deck.  It was such a beautiful day, and I'm starting to feel like if we don't make the most out of these wonderfully warm Fall days, we (and by "we" I mean "me") will regret it.  So, it was decided that we would grab take-out, and dine on the deck.

House picked up? Check.

Food ordered? Check.

Good conversation flowing? Check

Deck? Um...

As The Hubs, our niece,  Bucket Gracie the dog, and his brother chatted outside, The Sister-in-Law, and I prepped plates, dished out helpings, and poured drinks.  When all of a sudden I hear this horribly loud noise.  I can't really describe what it sounded like, but I thought that something horrible had happened to Bucket Grace.  Like maybe she fell and bonked her bucket on something, or maybe got her bucket stuck in something and then fell.  As I quickly moved over to where the sound came from and frantically tried to see what was happening, I also noticed that Bucket Grace, The Niece, and The Bro were all in a state of panic, and looking quite off balance.  As I rounded the corner and tried to get outside to figure it all out, that's when I saw it.  Our deck.  Well, I can't really call it a deck anymore.  Why?  Because it is halfway hanging off of our house.

So, because I am calm and cool in these types of scenarios, I started screaming all panicky like, "Get off the Deck!  Get off the Deck!  Get inside quick!"

As if that wasn't their first instinct.

Of course, they came inside.  Duh.

Well, except The Hubs.  After he felt like the deck was done ripping away from our home, and wouldn't plummet the the depths of the rocky ground below (OK, it's probably like six feet), he decided he needed to stand there and BOUNCE ON IT.  He was trying to figure out, "What in the world just happened here?!"

I was still screaming.

Hey, I wanted everyone to know the safest place was inside the house.

That's when The Hubs looked at me all annoyed like and said, "No one's dying.  Calm down already!"

Oh.

Since I still couldn't stand to watch him bounce around on a deck that is ripping away from the house that is holding it up, I thought I would just go somewhere where I couldn't see all the bouncing that was going on.

(Seriously though, why do we need to bounce around on a deck that is falling to the ground?  Because we need to know why it happened?  That makes no sense to me.  I mean, it's falling off.  Who cares why.  Let's not kill ourselves in the process of working it all out and trying to make sense of it all.  (Sorry, Hubs, I still love you.  You are amazing.))

Since everyone is safe, we can all laugh about it now.  Since The Hubs has figured out that the reason it fell has nothing to do with his precise workmanship, he can laugh about it now.

My main concern was how this was going to affect our car buying budget.  Because these things NEVER happen when you don't have anything in particular that you are saving for.

Good news:  We can get it fixed "temporarily" for pretty cheap until next spring/summer when we will actually be using it again.  This should allow for some savings, and for us to plan better for the type of deck we would like (as opposed to the type of deck the previous owners liked). 

Phew.

 Wait a minute!  That large gap isn't supposed to be there:



















Does your deck have a downward slope?:























*No humans or bucket-headed dogs were hurt in the making of this blog post.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

How's School Going?

A conversation with The Little Man and The Hubs:

p:  Whew!  I am so so SO glad it's a three day weekend.  I need a break!
H: What are you talking about dude? You only go to school for about 2 hours!
p: No I don't!  I go for three hours, and my brain is KILLING me!

So, it looks like we are adjusting well.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Letter To My Girl

**This post is for My Girl.**


Dear Sweet Girl,

I want you to know that when you came home yesterday devastated, that I too was crushed.  It pains my heart when you hurt.  I know you had your heart set on getting a part in the school play, and even though we talked about the possibility of it not working out, the thought never crossed your mind that you would have to cross that bridge.  I'm so sorry that life's path isn't always as smooth as we would like it to be.

Can I tell you how proud I am of you, though?  I am so proud that you were brave enough to even try out!  I am so proud that when the drama teacher came over to apologize to you about not having enough speaking roles, you quickly shut off the tears, looked her straight in the eye and said, "That's OK.  I completely forgive you."  After that, no more tears.  You continued on in practice and found a way to have fun, even after feeling hurt and rejected.  I am so proud that after we discussed the pro's and con's of staying on with the show, despite not getting what you wanted, you decided it would be better to go on ahead, have fun with your friends, learn some new things, and stay loyal to your commitment.  You are demonstrating such courage and perseverance.  What blew me away the most was later last night, when we said our prayers, you thanked God for the opportunity you had been given to be apart of something so fun.  You thanked Him for helping you to understand and not to be sad anymore, and then you asked Him for His help.  You asked if He would help your heart learn to love whatever job they gave you.

There are no words to describe how I felt.

Since you have accepted Christ into your heart this past summer, I can see how He is changing you and growing you.  To be thankful in a time of hardship is an amazing example of being Spirit led.  Relying on Him to grow your heart to desire His will, is far beyond your years. 

I want you to know that He sees you.  He sees you yielding to Him and His ways, and He is glorified by how you are dealing with this.  These bumps in the road, while they can be difficult and hard to understand, they are part of life.   You have chosen to deal with this bump wonderfully. 

I am so very proud of you.

Love,
Momma


 "The LORD your God is with you,
   he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
   he will quiet you with his love,
   he will rejoice over you with singing."

-Zephaniah 3:17 NIV
 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Do You Hear That?

I know that some of you that read this blog live very far away from us.  Alas, I still think if you stop what you are doing right now, and concentrate really hard on listening, you will hear a faint far off noise.  It will kind of sound like a weird sucking noise.  You know, the kind of sucking that happens as a drain gets close to emptying the liquid contents of whatever it's attached to.

Do you hear it?

That is our bank account, people.

The last few days have been expensive.  First, the dog.  She had her surgery on Friday.  Poor girl was terrified when we dropped her off at the vet in the morning.  I couldn't help that she thought she must have done something in the night to suddenly make her people hate her.  First, there was no night time snack.  Second, when she got up to get a drink, there was none available.  Then, no breakfast, and last, when she tried to sneak an apple from the trees in the back yard, BUSTED.  As I dropped her off for her surgery, I felt horrible that we not only had to with hold all foods and liquids for 12 hours previous to her surgery, but then I had no way to explain why I was going to abandon leave her at the vet where she would be put into a deep sleep and then wake up completely groggy and discombobulated and at the same time have horrible pain in both her eye and leg. Don't forget, the teeth!  Somehow she got fresh breath and lost those pesky teeth that were not only slowing down her meal times but also made keeping fresh breath impossible.  I just wanted to sit her down and somehow explain to her that we loved her and we were helping her.

I am certain that she did not get the message.

She spent a few days totally ticked at us.

Or ticked at the cone they put on her head.

Or both.  It's hard to tell.  But she was ticked.

I was ticked too.  You should have seen the vet bill!  Good grief!  Next time those vet people give me a hard time about not bringing her in more often, I now know how I will answer back.

It won't be very nice.

And it will involve how much they charge people who are vulnerable.  People who are put in between a rock and a hard place because they love their pets and feel like total schmucks if they don't take care of them the way they are told to take care of them by the vet.  However, the cost?  I think I do not speak alone when I say that vet bills can give a perfectly healthy person a heart attack.

Then today, I was told she needed to come in and have a post-op check.   Sounds pretty normal.  I mean, I've never had surgery myself, but I have heard how important it is for humans to have post-op checks.  It's probably a good thing to make sure all is going well and there isn't some sort of complication or infection setting in.  Guess what?  That will be an additional charge.  Oh, yes.  It sure makes it difficult for responsible pet owners to want to do the right thing by their pets.  I can't tell you how badly I want to cancel that appointment.  I know that if I do, though, something will happen, and I'll never let myself off the hook.  The good news?  It's free for us to have the stitches removed.

Gee, thanks.

Later today, after the kids had come home from school, The Little Man was watching TV.  All of a sudden, he's all, "Oh WOW!"  Mommy, my tooth just fell out!"  I was a little shocked considering, the tooth wasn't really loose.  He had complained that it was hurting him the last few days, but as I looked at it and saw nothing that would suggest a problem, I just told him not to worry about it and to eat on the other side of his mouth.  I did notice that the front tooth that was next  to it (and that was attempting to grow in)was awfully large for the space that it was given. 

Well, sure enough.  That front tooth?  It wanted to move in, and it made room for itself.






















That space you see there, it's supposed to be big enough for TWO adult teeth.  Can you see how the gum is actually coming down in the shape of the new tooth?  So, then you can see how much space the tooth next to it (the one that just fell out) will have.

Houston, we have a problem.

It looks like we will have a lot of time (and money spent) in the orthodontist office.

The Girl, in an attempt to tease him, was telling him all about his future in braces.

d: You're going to have to wear braces.  You're going to have to wear braces!
p: What?  (and not a "what" like I didn't hear you, but more like a "What?  Are you talkin' to me?  Did you just try to tease me?" type tone)
d: HA! You're going to need braces!
p: What?  You've never heard of Invisalign?  DUH!  I'll get Invisalign and it won't be a problem.  I'll take them out whenever I want to!
d:  (Dumbfounded and shocked.  No response)
me: (Dumbfounded and shocked.  Laughing and refraining myself from giving The Little Man a high five. Well played, Little Man, well played.)

Invisalign, braces, whatever.

Do you hear that sucking noise?

Yea, me too.

*sigh*